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Premature menopause: Why it happens and what you can do about it

Sarah Wassner Flynn is a New York City-based writer. She's contributed to magazines such as CosmoGIRL!, National Geographic Kids, Runner's World, Women's Health, Prevention and MetroSports New York. She is also the author of The Book of ...

Menopause in Younger Women

It is a fact that all women will go through menopause at some point during their lives, usually after the age of 45. But a small percentage - about 1 in every 100 women between the ages of 30 to 39 and 1 in every 1000 women ages 15 to 29 - will start to experience the symptoms of menopause earlier. Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done to reverse premature menopause (if it happens before the age of 45) or early menopause (before 40) from occurring. But there are ways to treat its symptoms. Even better, there is hope for early menopausal women who want to have children. Read on to find out more.

Early Menopause

WHY MENOPAUSE OCCURS IN YOUNGER WOMEN

There are a variety of reasons why you may enter menopause earlier in life. Sometimes, the cause may be linked to your genetic makeup or your past. Some women are just born with very few eggs, and if your mom went into menopause early, chances are, you will, too.

Other culprits include premature ovarian failure (POF) — when a woman's ovaries stop producing eggs and the hormones needed to ovulate — which is almost always linked to autoimmune disorders. Surgical menopause (the deliberate forcing of menopause due to health reasons like endometriosis or ovarian cancer), cancer treatments like chemotherapy or radiation, eating disorders, and infections of the ovaries are also possible causes of early or premature menopause.

KNOW THE SYMPTOMS OF MENOPAUSE

The symptoms of menopause are the same across the board, regardless of age. Irregular periods, hot flashes, night sweats, lack of sexual drive, irritability, painful sex and vaginal dryness stand out as the most common signs. However, some women may continue to have normal periods with no symptoms and do not find out that they are menopausal until they have trouble conceiving. Regular checkups and pelvic exams with an OB/GYN are therefore important, especially for younger women who plan to eventually get pregnant.

HOW TO TREAT EARLY MENOPAUSE

The standard treatment for early menopause is hormone therapy, which gives your body a boost of estrogen, progesterone or both. These hormones also enable the uterus to support a possible pregnancy. Other doctors may prescribe a combined oral contraceptive pill (COC), containing both estrogen and progesterone, which may also help prevent osteoporosis and brittle bones—a common concern among menopausal women. To determine the best treatment for you, talk with your doctor.

HOPE FOR PREGNANCY DESPITE MENOPAUSE

Even though premature menopause basically tricks your body into thinking it can no longer reproduce, some women are able to successfully conceive despite the odds. There are a variety of fertility treatments available, including certain medications and in vitro fertilization, or a woman can opt to go with a donor egg.

Additionally, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has proven to be an aid in younger women achieving pregnancy despite premature menopause. In fact, the added boost of estrogen and progesterone are said to give women up to a 50 percent chance of becoming pregnant. Otherwise, the chance of becoming pregnant is less than 10 percent. Read more about HRT at MedlinePlus.

If you think there is a chance you are entering early menopause, consult your doctor right away, as you may also be at an increased risk for other health problems, including osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease.

For additional details and support, visit Earlymenopause.com and the American Pregnancy Association. And for more information on menopause, visit Natural remedies for menopause.

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